portion of artwork for Mary Caldwell-Kane's poems

Mary Caldwell-Kane

She prepares her firstborn for college:
extra-long sheets, brushed corduroy, Clearasil.
Friends kiddingly ask how she deals with desertion.
That child eats me out of house and home, her pat response.

UPS delivers a package for her second born.
He claims readiness, having studied the mantis.
The firstborn makes fun of the second born’s hobby,
smacking his small head, a tussle ensues,
bodies fall to kitchen floor.

When the spindly mob emerges from egg,
bellies are used as footholds,
all dying to reach the top of the family heap.

The second born keeps four hardy specimens,
releasing the rest into a fern patch.
Three turn on the fourth, finishing their sibling in seconds,
cleansing raptorial arms of related residue.

Soon, the second born admits defeat.
They are never satisfied, he frowns.

Night after night, the mother steps in.

Standing outside the front door,
back arched against yellow porch light,
her stark white nightie a beacon for wayward wings.
She greets them with a flash of net,
bosom bouncing, pulling life out of air.

In route to his girlfriend’s house,
the firstborn son passes his mother’s silhouette.
Arthropod kamikazes bounce off her shadowy body.
The firstborn says a sarcastic something.
She cannot hear him.
She is concentrated upon segmented bodies now.

Later she will sit over coffee, feeling chatty,
while they stand statuary still,
compound eyes watching her every move.
She hand feeds, satisfied as legs rip, antennae tear.

At her vanity, she pulls brush through hair,
snagging bits of gossamer,
fragile exoskeltons,
a plump thorax.
Her mate shakes his head in disgust.
She hates him suddenly.

One August day, she feels a pang.
The mantises are grown,
but living in an air-conditioned world,
awaiting their meals, growing fat.
They do so little for themselves, she thinks.

The directions recommend release.

Squatting in the garden bed, she fiddles with the sanctuary zipper.
With a brave breath, she pushes them towards freedom.
They emerge with caution, crawling onto a rhododendron, praying to Mecca.

She swats at the sun’s heat and stares greedily at her brood.
Furiously wiping her eyes, she wonders why she isn’t ready.
She read the goddamn instructions.
The largest one moves to the ground.
Hurriedly, the mother grabs a rock, repeatedly smashing,
shedding year after year of salt-flavored devotion.

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